Google Earth Elevation Profiles

An often overlooked feature of Google Earth, elevation profiles were first introduced in version 5.2. The feature is easy to use, all you need is a path selected in your ‘My Places’ then go to the ‘Edit’ menu and select ‘Show Elevation Profile’.

If you want the elevation profile of a slice through a mountain or valley, simply draw a straight line using the ‘Add Path’ tool on the Google Earth toolbar. But it is not restricted to straight lines and much more often you will be interested in the elevation profile of a hike you are planning, or bicycle route. In this case, you can draw out the path as before, or if it is a route on roads/paths already marked on Google Earth, you can use the Get Directions feature right-click (CTRL click on Mac) on the blue line and select ‘Show Elevation Profile’.


Elevation profile of a route in the Swiss Alps.

If you hold your mouse over the elevation profile, it will show a red arrow on the map marking the location, and also display the height above sea level and gradient at that point.

Keep in mind that Google Earth’s elevation data is not very high resolution and should not be taken as anything more than a rough guide. We also discovered that on the route shown above there were several tunnels and bridges and the route in Google Earth that is used for the elevation profile follows the ground and not the actual road surface resulting in large bumps and dips in the elevation profile.

Tunnel

Bridge

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.



Comments

  1. Hello Timothy, thanks for the article. I have used this for a while now, but would liek to know if it is possible to “save place as” and have the elevation data included in a gpx file? I have not been able to do this yet, but thought you might know of a way to make this happen/

    Regards
    Gordon

  2. WR Barnhart says:

    Using a straight path cross section for Elevation Profile, at some sizes I can get very detailed elevation information, but at full screen, it only gives me very general elevation changes. Is there anyway to “turn” Elevation Profile on so it will always give me the more detailed elevation changes? I am using routes of about 500 km.

  3. Hi

    There are a number of us out there who are using this feature to plan computer data links. How would I suggest some modification such as how to be able to set point heights at each node and add a straight line between nodes with a measurement ground to line. Currently I use the elevation Profile print it and manually draw the line (on paper or on computer) and make estimates from there. The Altitude Tab gets most of the way but not quite.

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      Have you seen this post about fresnel zones? If it doesn’t serve your requirements give me a bit more detail and I will consider doing a JavaScript tool to do the job using the Google Maps Elevation service. Also have a look at the Viewshed tool if you haven’t already.

      • The Fresnel post and tools are a good start however they do not seem to work with Australian location Data. I have left a message with Loxcel to see if the is the case. The Viewshed is not quite what am after. Thanks very much for your post.

      • My bad I had a minus sign in the wrong place. I have what I need Thanks again

  4. roozbeh says:

    Hi There,

    I remember about 8 years ago I’d measure elevation profiles between two different points for example A and B. And I used to set heights for A end and B end manually to see at what height I’d have line of site between the 2 ends. I’ve not used G earth since then and I’m not sure that feature still is there.
    Can anyone please assist?
    Thanks.

    Roozbeh

  5. Gerardo Perez T. says:

    What should I do to get the only average slope ?. I must add positive and negative slope or average them ?. Thank you.

  6. curiousgally says:

    Is there a way to see a path between two points with the slightest slopes along the route. I need this to plan a canal between two points A and B. I would like to minimize the use of pumps to push the water up and rather prefer gravity. So a tool that can give me an estimate of canal length for doing the same would help a lot, to try and see the minimum effort necessary. Thanks.

  7. Hi Tim,

    What is the source of elevation data used by Google Earth? Do they extracted it from ASTER GDEM/SRTM or any other data source?

    thank you

  8. SABYASACHI MAITI says:

    Can I see elevation change with time using Google Earth? For example, for snowy region will there be any difference of elevation between winter and summer?

  9. Is there any way to get the profile showing height above ground level – not above sea level ?
    Thanks

  10. Butch Kara says:

    Google Earth elevation profiles are great – except for the inability (as far as I can tell) to alter the vertical exaggeration. Too much VE can produce a very distorted picture of the terrain. Am i missing something, or do we just have to live with this limitation?

Leave a Reply